Down and Out in Paris and London


George Orwell

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Down and Out in Paris and London: Chapter 28 Summary & Analysis

In Orwell’s opinion, Paddy Jacques is a typical English tramp of his time—ignorant and determined to remain that way, well-versed in the art of spotting cigarette ends on the sidewalk, and talkative. He served two years in the war and, having lost his job at a metal polish factory, took to the streets. He lives on a diet of bread and margarine, and he has no stomach for stealing and no will to change his lot in life. Self-pity defines him, as does an avid desire for prostitutes and a resentment of people lucky enough to find work. Still, he is a generous man and he often shares his last bit of food with anyone who needs it more than he does. It wasn’t his innate nature that made him a tramp, Orwell contends, but rather two years of being down and out. Those years and the attendant hunger had stolen from him his real potential.
Paddy is yet more evidence that poverty can strike anyone. Having lost his job and lived for two years on a diet of bread and margarine, he has lost touch with the person he once was and is now trapped in poverty like a bug in a web. Like the plongeur, he has no time to consider a different sort of existence. He spends his days walking from one shelter to another, a slave to his appetites, which are never truly satisfied. If he had work, he would be a completely different person, but his fate is to stare at sidewalks, hunting for cigarette butts. Orwell doesn’t blame Paddy, but rather portrays him as a victim of a cruel system. 
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